Innovation and Sanger's Researchers

Improving health through genomics

Sanger Institute, Genome Research Limited

The Sanger Institute has always sought to facilitate improvements in human health, and as our scientists continue to generate an ever deeper biological understanding of the genomic data and engender clinical perspectives to our science, we are faced with even more opportunities to contribute to healthcare improvements.

Sanger’s Translation Team is comprised of former researchers with expertise in all aspects of technology identification, assessment, protection, development, and commercialisation. We help our researchers translate their work towards a product or service that enables healthcare benefit by:

  • Conducting thorough technology evaluations and market research
  • Protecting their ideas through filing patents if appropriate
  • Assisting with development plans and funding
  • Undertaking extensive business development activities
  • Structuring and negotiating collaboration, evaluation, license and spin-out agreements
  • Managing established development partnerships

Technology Disclosure

As a Sanger researcher, if you have a technology that you think is new, exciting, and has potential as a commercial product or application that could impact research or healthcare, come and talk to us.

We help our researchers from the earliest stage

We are happy to help from the earliest stage. If you think that your technology is patentable, please contact us prior to any form of public domain disclosure at

What is technology translation?

Technology translation is the movement or flow of technical knowledge, data, designs, prototypes, materials, inventions, software, and/or trade secrets from one organization to another organization or from one purpose to another purpose. The technology transfer process is guided by the policies and values of each respective organisation, and at Sanger, we have our own set of guidelines. Please email us to request a copy of this document.

Technology Translation Explainer Videos

What is Technology Translation and where to start? These explainer videos take you through your first steps as an inventor, from key ideas on how to evaluate if your idea has translational potential, the key concepts of IP or how to differentiate your work.

Inventing: the first step towards translating your research

Intellectual Property – tips to get you started

Differentiating and positioning your scientific idea

Evaluating your commercial idea

Intellectual Property (IP)

The World Intellectual Property Organisation refers to intellectual property as creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce.

Intellectual property rights form a method of protecting your ideas and inventions and may encourage investment in developing technologies. These forms include patents, know-how, copyright, design rights, and trademarks.

Evaluating Disclosures

The development potential of any idea or discovery needs to be evaluated to understand if the promise aligns with a market need and justifies leveraging resources against that opportunity. This is classically an iterative process where, following initial discussions between a researcher and a member of the Translation Team, the opportunity is assessed in terms of the following criteria:

  • Unmet need – What is the problem that your invention addresses and how well does it or could it meet that need?
  • Market – What is the potential market for the technology and what is the total market value?
  • Competition – Who are the competitors, and at what stage of development are they?
  • Technical Hurdles – How long is the development process?
  • Intellectual Property Rights – What type of intellectual property is it and does it require protecting?
  • Development Costs – What is the likely time, resource commitment and cost of development?
  • Development Path – Licensing to an existing company, forming a new company or development through not-for-profit routes.

Following this first-pass review, often more questions are generated and further insight is sought from the researcher. If the opportunity appears to have development potential following this assessment our Translation Team will start discussions with the researcher on what development path it believes is necessary to realise that opportunity. It is worth noting that, if an idea needs more work and resources to be translatable, we have a translation fund to help (see below).


A patent is a bargain between the inventor and the government where, in return for describing an invention so a skilled person could recapitulate it, the inventor is given control of the right to commercialise the invention for 20 years. Companies will often pay for the right to a technology in order to secure a competitive advantage, especially if investment in technology development is required.

Patenting is an expensive and lengthy process, it typically takes around 5 years to get a patent granted and typically costs upwards of tens of thousands of pounds, with ongoing annual renewal fees also adding significant costs.

Patentability Criteria

For an invention to be patentable it needs to be novel, inventive and have industrial applicability. Three requirements have to be met in every case and are tested by the patent office separately.

  1. Novelty – means that the invention has not been published in the public domain i.e. publication, poster, oral presentation by the inventor themselves or by anyone else; any relevant pre-existing information is known as ‘prior art’. If an invention has already been disclosed by a third party it is no longer possible to file a patent application. If you think your idea might be patentable please discuss it with the Translation Office before a public domain disclosure:
  2. Inventive – means that the invention is not obvious to anyone skilled in the art i.e. peers of the inventor are often a good reference point for individuals skilled in the art. A good test of this inventive step or non-obviousness is whether another scientist with comparable skills would not simply put two or more pieces of existing information together and come up with the invention. Often an academics’ threshold for what could be considered inventive is significantly higher than that required to file a patent application, so it is worth discussing your idea with the Translation Office if you think it may be inventive.
  3. Industrial applicability – means that the invention needs to have a technical application.
Patenting Process

The first step is the filing of a priority patent application, usually in the UK (occasionally in the US). This establishes the ‘priority date’ which is the first date that the invention is disclosed to the patent office. This date is important as it sets the date at which your invention is considered as prior-art against any competitor inventions.

At 12 months it is usual to file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application and extra data can be added in at this point. Filing of a PCT application allows the inventor to pursue a patent application in most countries worldwide. At 18 months the European Patent Office (EPO) issues a search report listing any relevant prior art (publications, posters, presentations etc.) that has been identified by the patent office, together with an initial opinion on the patentability of your invention. At 30 months if you wish to continue to pursue the application then it is necessary to select the individual countries where you wish to pursue a patent application. The application is then examined by the individual national patent offices with individual payments incurred at each office. It is normal to have to go through several rounds of examination reports and responses for each patent office and claims generally get amended and narrowed down. Each round of examination in each territory will cost several thousand pounds. Once the patent is in order for being granted there is an issue fee to be paid for each territory and then annual renewal fees.

Licensing Technology vs Company Formation 

The decision to start a company around a technology versus the decision to license it to a commercial partner already in the market requires significant consideration. You may wish to consider:

  • Is the IP position narrow or broad?
  • Are there multiple potential licensees?
  • Is there a platform for generating new intellectual property?
  • Is there an existing company ideally placed with the capability to develop your technology?

In general, if the IP position is narrow and there is only a single product, licensing to an existing company/companies may be most appropriate and probably most likely to generate revenues for the inventor(s). Our Translation Team will help identify possible companies that have the existing capability and infrastructure to develop and market your technology. Most technologies fit well as part of the portfolio of an existing company.

If the IP position is broad and there are several products or the opportunity to generate a pipeline of new IP, then formation of a new company may be most appropriate. Generally speaking, several technologies or applications are needed for company formation, as founding a company based on a single technology may be too risky. Our Translation Team will work with you to formulate a business plan and will use their networks to attract investment.

We work with many industry partners

The Sanger Institute has a culture of academic collaboration, but it also has a track record of productive partnerships with industry that have led to the disemination of our capabilities into the private sector. There are many ways to work with industry, ranging from exchanging materials, becoming involved in joint scientific and clinical collaborations, to financial support of basic research. Often industry is an underappreciated source of funding and expertise that, with the right relationship, can complement scientific research programmes and offer an invested translational partner for the development of any discoveries. Commercial interactions can present challenges not obvious in academic collaborations around the same capability or technology, so it is worth engaging with our Translation Team early in such discussions.

A Scientist's Role in Translation 

The development path for many academic technologies is not linear and often requires further input by the inventor to develop the nascent technology to a point that industry will engage with the opportunity. Therefore, researchers channeling their science towards such translational objectives should appreciate that this is an ongoing commitment towards an important goal. This is not to say such efforts are without reward and it is worth a researcher considering translational research as an important aspect of their academic career. The following are just some of the ways translational research can benefit a scientist:

  • Real-world application of research – you might see your invention developed with the prospect of impacting patient benefit.
  • Incentivisation scheme – the Sanger Institute operates a reward scheme so you will also benefit financially if your invention is successfully commercialised. If a company is formed you will have the opportunity to take equity and perhaps participate in the operation and strategic direction of the company.
  • Leveraging of industry resources – Links with industry can lead to research collaborations and funding for your laboratory. Inventions also allow access to additional sources of development funding.
  • Increase in researcher profile – Commercialisation of inventions often leads to press releases and can raise the international profile of your research. Additionally, patent applications can be cited in grant applications alongside publications.

Managing Conflicts of Interest 

A researcher navigating interactions with industry can encounter situations where there is a conflict of interest.

Definition: A conflict of interest is when an employee’s judgment could possibly be influenced by a secondary interest, such as financial gain or personal advancement.

In this instance, they should recognise the potential conflict, as well as the perception of conflict, and take measures to avoid it. Formal disclosure allows for individuals to be excluded from information and decisions which may challenge their objectivity, thus protecting the integrity of the Institute’s decision-making processes and the reputation of such individual. The Sanger Institute’s conflicts of interest policy aims to ensure researchers retain a strong degree of objectivity in the design, conduct, and reporting of research. Our TranslationTeam can provide you with a copy of such a document, to guide you when pursuing collaborations with industry.

Translation Committee Funding 

The Sanger Institute Translation Committee is a group of individuals with representation from both within Sanger and external to it, that have a background in entrepreneurship and innovation. The objective of the Translation Committee is to evaluate translational projects that have been proposed by Sanger’s researchers where there is a clear derisking development objective (not part of the researcher’s academic objectives) that additional funding could enable. The Sanger Institute Translation Committee holds a proof of concept fund of £200,000 per year to support early-stage translational opportunities. The Committee meets about 3 times each year and requires short applications (typically 3-5 pages), providing a background to the science/technology and outlining the proposed experiments and associated costs. Applications are reviewed following a presentation and discussion with the applying scientist. A decision is made on the same day and if successful, funds can be activated immediately.

Sanger's Translation Success Stories 

Our Translation Team has helped navigate the path for a number of opportunities ranging from strategic relationships with commercial parties, creating self-sustaining initiatives through to licensing technologies. We work hard to understand the specific context of each opportunity and look to maximise its impact while endeavouring to preserve the interests of the Institute.

COSMIC Case Study Sanger Innovation Translation

Podcast with Dr Adrian Ibrahim & CUTEC

Our Translation Team has helped navigate the path for a number of opportunities ranging from strategic relationships with commercial parties, creating self-sustaining initiatives through to licensing technologies. We work hard to understand the specific context of each opportunity and look to maximise its impact while endeavouring to preserve the interests of the Institute.

CUTalks by CUTEC · Adrian Ibrahim, Sanger Institute